Murud Janjira: The unconquered sea fortress of Konkani region

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We wanted to visit the sea fortress Murud Janjira fort. Hence, we checked out of our hotel and drove for Dighi 48Km from Harihareshwar. Dighi is famous for the undefeated Murud Janjira fort, established by the Siddi dynasty. Janjira originated from the Arabic word Jazeera- which means Island. The epithet of the defence is a sequence of Konkani and Arabic expressions for the Island. 

Drive towards Murud Janjira

Like the fort, the drive to Dighi was beautiful, with lush green plantations on my right, the blue sea on my left, an occasional fishing village blue blueblue sea on my left, and occasional fishing villages and paddy fields. And we were lucky as the sun shone bright, with few clouds fleeting across the sky. 

The coastal stretch

This fort is oval & its wall is 40 feet high with 19 round arches where cannons were mounted. Some angles still have cannons mounted, including the barrel Kalaal Baangadi. During the most exceptional vigour, this Island boasted 572 guns. The sea fortress is strategically located, 3km deep in the sea from the shore, and with the artillery on the arches responsible for repelling oncoming enemies from the sea, which led it to have remained unconquered in the fort’s history of 350 years. 

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
Boat ride to Janjira fort

Despite numerous attempts, the Maratha Emperor, Shivaji, the Portuguese and even the British could not seize the fortress. Within the fort walls are ruins of a mosque, a palace, and a bath with water channelled from a stream. There is a deep well, too, still functional, that provides freshwater despite being surrounded by the ocean.

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
The Janjira fort from the boat

Murud Janjira is among the strongest marine forts in India. It can be approached by ferry from the Rajapuri jetty in Dighi. They run from Dighi to the Murud Janjira Fort & back. However, the boat holds a capacity of 100 seats and at least needs 50 passengers to make the trip viable for them. Tickets need to be bought to enter the fortress at the Rajapuri jetty, which was approx Rs 60, & for the jetty, Rs30 per person. This boat ride to Murud Janjira gave me a feeling of SRK from Swades; the song sequence “Tu Hi Re” from the movie Bombay has been shot here, another reason why the fort is renowned. 

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
The entrance of Janjira fort

A 30-45 min ferry ride, and we arrive at the narrow entryway of the fort facing the Rajapuri village on the shore. I was shit scared looking at the waves lashing onto the steps, and you need to jump across to these steps from the boat. A gymnast in the middle of the sea, somehow I managed to jump across, screaming my lungs away. The weekend was crowded; also, we got an hour to explore the fortress. How amazing! We found many ISI guides at the fort, with a fixed price of Rs 500 per hour. So we hired one & entered the fort.

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
Sculpture of Lion & Elephant

The fort’s outer surface is still in good condition, except the walls have been battered with sea waves for the last six centuries. Upon entering the fort first thing that caught my eye was the Persian inscription and a carved sculpture depicting a tiger-like beast clasping elephants in its claws- representing strength. We had to climb approx 150 stairs to reach the second floor & the rampart of the fort. You can see the intact 26-rounded bastions and many cannons of native and European make rusting on the defences. 

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
Canon at the fort

Our guide showed us the main canon of the fortress, Kalaal Baangadi, which weighed 22 tons and was brought to the Island in the shape of a ring and assembled at the fort. It is made of ‘Panch Dhaatu’ and was mobile in those days, but still required 30-40 able men to move it. The entire garrison had 145 cannons. The fortress’s architecture is awe-inspiring; standing in the inner courtyards can view miles over the sea from any side. However, the arches towards the outer walls were reasonably small, but as I walked towards the fort’s centre, they got larger and larger. Our guide explained the logic behind such construction from the outside. You could not see inside the fort, which made the fortress almost invincible. 

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
Planned Architecture

Per our guide, Raja Ram Rao Patil was Patil of Janjira Island and chief of Kolis who built the fortress in the 16th century, so the Kolis lived peacefully away from the pirates. Yet, another record states the Abyssinian Siddi established the Janjira and Jafarbad state in early 1100. Also, per the accounts written by the Portuguese Admiral Fernao Mendes Pinto, the Ottman fleet aided the Batak and Maritime Southeast Asia region in 1539,cluded 200 Malabar sailors from Janjira.

Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira
Ruins of palace

Afterwards, in 1621, the Siddis of Janjira became exceptionally powerful as an autonomous state, and Siddi Ambar the little was considered the first Nawab of the Janjira state. He constructed a luxurious cliff-top mansion, the Palace of the Nawab, which holds a panoramic view of the Janjira sea fort and the Arabian sea. Another fort, named Ghosalgad, located on top of the hill, was built by Nawab. Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira

An exterior view of the fort was applied as an outpost for the rulers of Murud Janjira. The island fortress was also under the Adil Shahi dynasty’s command until the reign of Ibrahim II. The Marathas under Shivaji, then Sambhaji, tried to capture it but were unsuccessful. Sambhaji even attempted to build a tunnel towards it and built a fort on another rocky island, but eventually had to leave it incomplete. He made another sea fort in 1676, known as Padmadurg or Kasa fort, to challenge Janjira. 

Ruins of mosque

The fortress has three floors, where the military utilised the topmost for defence. The first floor had the houses, mosque, servants’ rooms, officer quarters, lakes and palace. And the lowermost part was used to store arms & ammunition. The fort was impenetrable, holding only one entry with a sheer drop of 40ft into the sea on all sides. Visit to Harihareshwar and Sea Fortress Janjira

Darya DarwazaThe fort has a beautifully camouflaged escape that opens to the sea to escape called Darya Darwaza. It has a tunnel in the defence that ran under the ocean to the Rajapuri fort for administrative purposes. The tunnel was 60ft underwater and usable up to 1991 until the last Koli tribe stopped visiting the fort and settled in Rajapuri village.

Servant rooms

While transferring to the mainland, they took the fort’s wooden frames, doors and windows with them. The principal attraction of the fortress is the two small 60-foot-deep natural sweet water lakes. I was surprised and kept wondering, surrounded by salt water, how they must have procured their drinking water. And that was another reason why the fort held out so long and remained unconquered. I was in utter disbelief with the marvelling architecture and blueprint of the fortress.

Sweet water lake or well

It was time to head home, but before that, I needed a good lunch as I was dying of hunger. Returning to the jetty, we had a cup of tea and headed toward Mumbai. On our way, we stopped at a roadside Dabba for a late lunch. While driving back, I realised Forts are not just history but the witness of wars, celebrations and bloodshed. It speaks volumes even in its ruins.

How to Reach 

By Air

Mumbai or Pune Airport is the nearest airport, between 210 km and 172 Km, respectively. Mumbai can take a taxi to Harihareshwar, or even a bus to Mangaon, then cabs from there onwards. In the case of the Pune route via Chandni Chowk through Tamahini ghats, they can also travel through Bhor ghat and Mahad to reach Harihareshwar. Buses Ply on regular Mangaon.

By Rail

Mangaon on the Konkan Railway is the nearest railway station from Harihareshwar and is located at 59km. Major cities are connected with Mangaon, and from Mangaon, both buses and taxis are available to reach Harihareshwar easily.

By Road

Harihareshwar is 210 Km from Mumbai, so that you can opt for anyone.

1. Mumbai-Panvel -Mangaon-Goregaon Phat on Bombay-Goa highway.

2. The Mumbai – Pen – Kolad – Mangaon – Morbi – Harihareshwar

If travelling from Pune, then the below route can be taken.

Pune- Mulshi – Tamhini Ghats – Mangaon – Morbi – Harihareshwar.

So you can opt for a cab or bus state and luxury till Mangaon, then hail a taxi till Harihareshwar.









One thought on “Murud Janjira: The unconquered sea fortress of Konkani region

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